HC Deb 06 February 1845 vol 77 cc170-85
Lord G. Somerset

, in moving for leave to bring in several Bills for the Consolidation of Railway Clauses, Companies, and Lands, in England and Scotland, stated, that the object of these measures had already been explained on a former occasion by a right hon. Friend of his, it being simply to embody in one uniform Act the various enactments relative to the subjects which were scattered through many Acts of Parliament. There was an immense number of statutes relating to these matters, which occasioned a great uncertainty as to their provisions and effect; and to remedy this inconvenience the Bills in question had been framed, three for England, and three for Scotland. With reference to the proceedings of the Board of Trade, in reporting on the different conflicting lines of railway submitted to the inspection of the officers of that Board, he must take that opportunity of assuring the noble Lord opposite (Lord Howick), that it never was the intention of the Government, nor, as far as he understood their sentiments, of the House, to render the decisions of the Railway Committee of the Board of Trade final or conclusive. But it was felt that the House must have information on these most important subjects; and there was no doubt that good grounds existed for the decisions which had been already come to. He certainly should always look upon those decisions with a certain degree of deference and respect; but he never could consider that the House was bound to follow in the track thus marked out, any more than he himself should do as representing a constituency or as one of the body of Members. He trusted the Reports of the Railway Committee would, when regarded in this light, meet with the general attention of the House; but he attached no other weight to them than that which they would derive from their own intrinsic value and merits. He saw no objection to allow of sufficient time for consideration to those parties whose projects were adversely viewed, to renew their applications to Parliament after they had become cognizant of the Reports of the Railway Committee; and he therefore thought that fourteen days after those Reports were laid on the Table of the House might very fairly be granted for the purpose to enable parties so situated to deliberate. He trusted this course would meet the justice of the case, and that all parties would agree in its propriety and equity. This was all he had to say upon the subject. With respect to the Bills which he had to bring before the notice of the House, he trusted he should be permitted to lay them on the Table of the House, and to have them read a first time. He should then propose the Second Reading for Monday next, when his right hon. Friend would state their objects and details more fully to the House. The noble Lord moved for leave to bring in the first of the following Bills:—Companies Clauses Consolidation, Lands Clauses Consolidation, Railway Clauses Consolidation, Companies Clauses Consolidation (Scotland), Lands Clauses Consolidation (Scotland), Railway Clauses Consolidation (Scotland).

Viscount Hawick

thought the explanation given by the noble Lord opposite, with respect to the principle which he had touched upon the preceding evening, perfectly satisfactory. For his own part, he should be perfectly content if a space of fourteen days were to be allowed for deliberation after the Reports of the Railway Committee were printed and made public; but then it must be clearly understood, that the fourteen days' delay was to date from the time at which these Reports became accessible, in order to enable the parties to have the full advantage of the period granted them to determine whether or not they would proceed He also understood the noble Lord to intimate that it was the intention of the Government, that when two competing lines were submitted to the consideration of the Committee of that House, the Reports of the Railway Committee of the Board of Trade were also to be submitted to the same Committee. That was a point of extreme importance, and if it were conceded he should be quite satisfied. With respect to the Bills introduced by the noble Lord, he considered the House and the country were extremely indebted to the Government for having brought them in at so early a period of the Session, and he trusted they would soon become the law of the land. He would beg to ask one question of the noble Lord, which was, how soon it was likely the Reports of the Railway Committee of the Board of Trade on those lines of road which had been advertised as decided upon, would be laid upon the Table? It was extremely desirable that they should be made public with the least possible delay. He had only one more observation to make, which was, that in order substantially to place all parties upon an equal footing, care would be taken by the Government that where two competing lines came before the House, one of which had been adversely reported upon by the Railway Committee, the one favourably regarded by this Board should not be pushed forward, and prematurely thrust through the Committee on the Bill. ["Hear, hear."] Hon. Members cried "hear, hear;" but the suggestion which he had made was of great importance, for if time were granted to parties whose plans had been adversely reported on, to deliberate whether they would persevere and proceed with their Bill, whilst others, their competitors, were permitted in this interval to push their Bill through all its important stages, the effect would be to give the latter a most decided and a most unfair advantage. It was therefore most essential that the Government should so arrange the course of proceeding as not to permit a Bill to be hurried on through its second reading to the Committee, but so to regulate its progress as to afford the House an opportunity of judging of the merits of a competing Bill. This regulation was most essential, in order fully to carry out the views stated by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who had distinctly promised, that whether a railway project had been favourably reported to the House, or otherwise, it should receive a fair and full examination, if its promoters demanded it, when the line of country which was adopted came under the consideration of a Committee of that House.

Mr. Hodgson

wished to offer a remark upon an observation which had fallen from the noble Lord, and which might be considered referable to himself. The noble Lord had expressed an opinion, that when a line of railway which had been favour ably reported upon came before the House, it ought not to be suffered to proceed until the parties to the competing line which had been adversely viewed by the Board of Trade should have determined whether they would proceed with their Bill or not. This arrangement or regulation would, in his opinion, be extremely objectionable, inasmuch as a company, though it had resolved to withdraw from competition, might yet delay to announce its withdrawal, in order to be able in the interim to extort a compromise from the parties to the line favourably reported on. What he would propose in this respect was not that a rival line should be compelled to delay its progress until its competitor was prepared to go on, or to announce its withdrawal from the contest, but that the latter should appear simultaneously before the Committee, whether prepared to proceed or not; and that the Committee should, upon an examination of its plans, sections, and estimates, as well as of the other elements of the line, adjudicate between the two, so as to enable one of them to get through Parliament during the present Session.

Sir G. Grey

thought that his noble Friend (Viscount Howick) had been misunderstood by the hon. Member opposite. His noble Friend had not proposed that the progress of any Railway Bill should be arrested or suspended indefinitely, but simply that the House would allow of a delay of fourteen days clear from the period when the Report was made public, for the purpose of enabling parties adversely situated to determine whether they would proceed or not, a stipulation which appeared fair and equitable.

Sir R. Peel

had expressed yesterday his desire that the matters brought under consideration by the noble Lord opposite should have an impartial consideration on the part of the Government, and that all parties should be placed upon a fair and equal footing in that House, so as to satisfy them that substantial justice was done. What he then said was, that parties were to be allowed to present their Petitions whenever they thought proper to do so within the stipulated period, but that they should not be compelled to do so until fourteen days had elapsed after the Report had been made public. He had since then had an interview with his noble Friend the President of the Board of Trade, who had considered it not advisable to postpone the presentation to the House of those Reports which were already completed, until the whole of the Reports relating to other distinct and separate lines of railway under consideration were completed. His noble Friend, therefore, would be prepared in the course of the ensuing week to lay before Parliament the whole of the Reports affecting one particular line of country or district,—say, for example, that of West Kent, in which would be included all the railways that were classed under that head. After this, other lines similarly classed would follow in succession, and the whole of the Reports would thus be arranged under, perhaps, six or seven families, if he might so term them, of railways, being laid before the House as rapidly as the circumstances rendered it possible. He had communicated also with his noble Friend on the subject of the noble Viscount's observations of last evening, and he was entirely of opinion with himself that it never was the intention of the Government to fetter the House by any opinions or Reports presented or offered by the Department of which he was at the head; but that the preliminary examination to which railways were submitted at the Board of Trade, were merely instituted for the purpose of arriving at a proper knowledge of the grounds of each undertaking, and of the reasons which existed for or against it; in the firm confidence that, if the reasons set forth in the Report of that Board were good and sufficient, they would prevail against all the private influence that could be brought to bear upon the projects. He was, moreover, fully confirmed by all that had passed on this subject, that nothing could be more calculated to do harm, than that any Government should interfere, or in any way use its influence, in such matters. The Railway Committee of the Board of Trade had been instituted for the sole purpose of eliciting information upon the important subjects brought under its notice, and of affording that information to Parliament, and not with the most distant intention of compromising the neutrality of the Government upon such questions.

Colonel Sibthorp

said, it was well known he was not particularly partial to railroads, and that he had no interest in any of them; but his principal object in rising was to put a question. In putting it he hoped he should not be wanting in due courtesy to the House or to the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, whom he highly respected. All impression had gone forth that some one of the five Members composing what were called the Railway Commissioners—he spoke with no disrespect of them; on the contrary, he had a great respect for those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, though, at the same time, he must say, he knew none of them personally—might have some interest in these matters; and that report having got abroad, he thought it would be wise if it were contradicted. The question, therefore, which he wished to ask was, whether any of those five Members composing the Commission, directly or indirectly, had shares in or were connected with any of those railway schemes which had undergone their consideration? He thought it right to ask this question, because there was an opinion abroad that they could not be looked upon exactly as that impartial Court of Inquiry which he was sure the House and the country wished them to be.

Lord G. Somerset

said, his information upon the subject of the question put by the hon. and gallant Member was very limited. He was not consulted upon the formation of the Railway Committee of the Board of Trade, and all he could say was, that the parties most interested in the proceedings before the Railway Board had always, so far as he knew, expressed themselves exceedingly well satisfied with the candour and intelligence with which their schemes had been discussed. As to whether any of the Committee held shares in any railway, he really could give his hon. and gallant Friend no information; but he was quite sure that, if they followed his advice, they would get rid of all their shares in such undertakings, if they had any, as soon as they possibly could.

Mr. Wakley

said, the question put by the hon. and gallant Colonel had not been answered. He believed the noble Lord was not capable of answering it, and that he was not in possession of any information upon the subject. That information must be obtained from other parties. It was quite true, as the hon. and gallant Colonel had stated, that reports were actively and extensively circulated in the city to the prejudice of the Railway Board. They were, indeed, general throughout the city; and it was there stated, broadly and openly, by parties acquainted with railway transactions, that some private information must have been communicated in the market, or certain parties would not have made such enormous sums of money as they were said to have gained during the last few weeks. The right hon. the First Lord of the Treasury, in the House yesterday alluded to the circumstance of how injurious it would be to the character of the Government if such reports were circulated and could not be contradicted, but at the same time he wished to have something in the shape of a tangible accusation. The right hon. Baronet must be aware there was the greatest difficulty in obtaining such information as that; but this was quite clear, that certain parties in the city (he had had this information that morning), who had been engaged in the sale of Railway shares, happened to have been right in their speculations, and not wrong in one single instance, for several weeks past. One Gentleman, on Saturday se'nnight, made 40,000l. by the sale of shares in that single day, those shares having gone up from a small premium to 9l. or 10l. in the course of a few hours. The noble Lord the Member for Sunderland had opened this question in a most able practical speech; the right hon. Baronet paid that attention to it which the subject deserved; he gave to it a consideration which showed that he was open to receive impressions from either side of the House; and he at once yielded to the request of the noble Lord to delay the discussion till this night. But the question then opened ought not thus abruptly to terminate; and if the only result to be obtained by the speech of the noble Lord was an extension of time with regard to the introduction of Private Bills, the good which he for one anticipated would be lost, and he should be disappointed. The right hon. Baronet, a few years since, when he sat on the Opposition side of the House, stated he had been himself employed—he might be wrong with regard to the exact number of days—sixty-three or sixty-five days upon a Railway Committee, he believed the Stafford and Rugby Committee; and that during the whole of that time he had seen a gigantic company, having at its disposal enormous funds, fighting another company in the Committee rooms of the House, beating justice and principle entirely out of doors. The right hon. Baronet stated he saw the iniquity then himself which had been perpetrated, and, sitting on the Ministerial side of the House, he remembered saying to himself, "Well, the right hon. Gentleman is very near office, and this is one of the evils that will be remedied upon his taking a seat on my side of the House." But yesterday, when the subject was introduced by the noble Lord, the right hon. Gentleman stated how difficult it was to control barristers in the addresses they were in the habit of making to Railway Committees. This was really a most extraordinary declaration for the First Minister of the Crown to make. Here was a Minister who could influence foreign powers—whose influence could blanch the cheek of a foreign despot, carrying on his infamous practices thousands of miles from the shores of this country, declaring in his place in Parliament it was a most difficult thing to control barristers in the addresses they made to Committees of the House! Now, he must say, that the conduct of Committees of the House with regard to Private Bills was not only injurious to the best interests of the country, but it was absolutely disgraceful to the cause of justice. It was detrimental to the character of the House, for they could not be ignorant of the practices that were carried on there. He had been informed that barristers of very moderate ability last Session made no Jess than 6,000l., 8,000l., 10,000l., or 12,000l., in the Committee rooms of that House. A difficult thing to control them! Why, if the right hon. Gentleman would only apply his vigorous mind to the subject, in the short space of four hours he could not fail to discover a mode to remedy the evil; and it was only for want of applying his mind to it, that the House had now no remedy before it. Of course, he entertained too much respect for the honourable profession of the law to throw out any insinuations against barristers, But somehow or other, generally speaking, the common sense public of England discovered the best mode of transacting their own business; they generally found out the best mode of accomplishing their object, in regard to all transactions wherein their pecuniary interest was concerned. Now, suppose the right hon. Baronet employed a physician, and said to him, "So long as I am ill I'll pay you ten guineas a day," when did he think he would get cured? Or, suppose the right hon. Baronet got into a cab at the end of Oxford-street, and said to the driver, "I want to go and see the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House. I don't know where that is, nor do you, but as long as you are looking for it, I'll give you a guinea an hour;" when did the right hon. Baronet think the cab-driver would find the Mansion House? Now, what was the common and ordinary rule of paying barristers? Why, they were paid by the job. That was the common and ordinary rule out of doors. ["No!"] Yes it was. A barrister got a fee in a particular case; and how long did the trial last? Why, it was a marvellous thing if it lasted two days. He had his fee for that, and he would get no more if it lasted a fortnight. He had a motive for bringing the case to a conclusion within a limited period. But before the Committees of the House the practice was totally different. He was not himself acquainted with the fact, but he had been informed that a barrister appearing in a Committee room of the House was paid by the day; therefore he had certainly no very strong interest in shortening the discussion there. Something of this kind had been related to him:—A bill which consisted of 183 clauses had to be discussed in a Committee; a junior barrister wanted time, in order to get his senior there. The senior was engaged elsewhere, and it was perfectly notorious that the seniors required Committees to be adjourned from day to day, and witnesses to be detained, at an enormous expense, until it was convenient for them to be present to take up the business. He had been informed of a junior barrister — he was very young — and he supposed merely carrying out his alphabet, but it seemed he did it with a great deal of boldness and ingenuity—who had addressed the Committee somewhat in these terms: "Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, the Bill which I hold in my hand consists of 183 clauses; each clause contains a distinct subject; and that subject, I find upon being sub-divided, embraces thirteen subdivisions. Sir, I shall go over these thirteen sub-divisions in each clause." And then the learned gentleman entered been the first sub-division of the first clause; he argued the question he had to introduce in a circle, for there was neither beginning nor end to it, and he thus discussed it for five hours, at the end of which it was intimated that the Speaker had taken the chair. On the following day one of the Committee said, "Good God! when is this Bill to terminate? I will go and insure my life, for we have not got out of one of his sub-divisions yet, and we have 183 clauses to go through, with thirteen sub-divisions in each. I am sure it will be the death of me." Really, when, common sense was applied to a practice of this kind, it did call loudly for some immediate remedy. Upon every view that could be taken of the subject it called for a remedy; there was not one aspect of it that could be presented to the mind that did not say to the House, "Apply a remedy to this crying evil." Some one was robbed in all transactions of this kind; it was not honest dealing. All parties in that House were robbed of their time, their comfort, their health, and their convenience, whilst there were other parties who were robbed of their money, and possibly ruined by these disgraceful proceedings. He thanked the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland, for introducing the subject in his able speech yesterday; and he also thanked the right hon. Baronet for the manner in which he had listened to it, as well as for the course of conduct he had pursued in relation to it. He would only trouble the House with one other remark; it was with regard to the secret transactions of the Railway Committee of the Board of Trade. The noble Lord had very properly alluded to the vast amount of property placed under the superintendence, or rather under the regulation, indeed, almost at the disposal of that Board. The noble Lord had also remarked, that in all other trials where property was the subject, the investigation was open before the public; if it was in relation to the value of a basket of oranges only, the inquiry was always conducted in public. The reports in circulation on this subject were most injurious to the character of the Board; and he had no hesitation in saying that they must ultimately reach the Government, so that its character would be implicated. Gentlemen opposite were perhaps scarcely aware of what was being said upon the subject in the city. What objection was there, if the Board were acting honestly by the parties concerned and the public, to throwing their doors open from this hour, so that the public might see what transpired there? If there were objections, if it was to be a secret tribunal, if there were insurmountable obstacles to making the inquiry public, he would say it was better that such a Board should be at once abolished; for it might not only inflict injury upon private individuals who had done no wrong, but he was positive it would bring the character of the Government of this country into irretrievable disgrace.

Mr. Gladstone

said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had alluded to the enormous expenditure attaching to railway transactions before Committees of the House; and he concluded his speech by asking what reason could there possibly be why the inquiries of the Railway Department of the Board of Trade into the merits of railway schemes should not be conducted with open doors. He would give the hon. Gentleman one reason. It was the fear, if those inquiries were made publicly, as the hon. Gentleman would find, that before any very long time elapsed, the complaints he had made of the dilatoriness and the enormous expense of private business before Committees of the House, would be justly applicable to the Railway Department of the Board of Trade. There was very great difficulty, he admitted, in inquiries not conducted with open doors; but it was to be recollected that, as the noble Lord had most justly stated, they were in no respect to be considered binding in their result. They were in the nature of preliminary inquiries; they did not pretend to be definitive inquiries. It was quite impossible they could be definitive; and the question was whether, upon the whole, it were expedient, considering the difficulty that attended these cases, that such preliminary inquiries should be made by that House itself. He confessed he had a very decided opinion, so far as it had been tried, that the experiment had worked well; but, at the same time, he fully granted to the hon. Gentleman that any instrument of inquiry which necessarily involved secrecy, was an inadequate and imperfect instrument. It could not lead to any certainty in the decision; and, therefore, he fell back upon the declaration of the noble Lord, that the Board did not profess to give anything like a definitive result to the House. He hoped the House would be content to look at this question, not with regard to general or abstract principles, but with regard to practical results; he hoped the House would consider that we were in a crisis in railway matters, in which a mass of proposals and of plans had been brought forward; that the whole speculative action of the country had concentrated itself upon railways; and that although there might be faults found with particular decisions, although there might be with regard to certain lines feelings of objections against any inquiry not perfectly public, yet he asked the House what would have been the condition, the prospects, and the state of the railway share-market, and of speculation in that market, if there had been no Board of this kind to simplify and reduce the business within practical limits so as to enable the House of Commons to proceed? He did not think any hon. Gentleman could estimate lightly the difficulties under which the House of Commons would have been placed at this moment, if 240 Railway Bills had been placed upon the Table, with no guide or clue whatever to assist them, but subject only to the operation of the ordinary rules, defective as the hon. Gentleman had shown them necessarily to be, under which the private business of the House was conducted. It was very likely that a fuller discussion of this part of the subject might take place at a future time. The interests involved were so immense, that he could not wonder at many parties being disappointed at what had taken place. The hon. Gentleman had adverted to the rumours which he said were abroad in the City. He would express his own confident opinion, not at all in opposition to the declaration of the hon. Member, that although injurious rumours might have gone abroad, up to this moment the public sentiment was, upon the whole, decidedly in favour of the decisions to which the Railway Department of the Board of Trade had come. The general impression, he firmly believed, was, that the very difficult functions which that Department had had to discharge, though by no means perfectly discharged, had been intrusted to competent persons, and approached by those competent persons in a spirit of candour and of impartiality. He must also say, in defence of the Department, that the utmost possible precautions had been used to insure perfect secrecy. The hon. Member for Finsbury said, that some notions had got abroad, before the publication of some Report of the Board, what that Report would be; but a very small part of the hon. Gentleman's sagacity would have enabled him to see that that statement by no means amounted to a proof, nor, indeed, to a strong presumption, that anything had been divulged by those connected with the Railway Department of the Board. If the decisions had been reasonable decisions, if they were founded in any degree upon the facts of the case, of course those parties who had gone before the Railway Department, who had paid attention to the questions put, and observed the facts that had come out in the course of the interview, would draw their own inference as to the probable results; and, therefore, in the proportion as any decision, reasonable in itself, might be anticipated by parties of active minds, they would probably operate accordingly. He was quite satisfied that, if the House were aware of the pains that had been taken to prevent the possibility of the premature transpiring of intelligence, they would agree with him in doubting whether it had transpired. It was impossible to be sure in all cases that you have succeeded in preventing this—durum per medios ire satellites; but you may be satisfied as to the precautions. The decisions of the Board, in point of fact, were not formally given until almost the very moment before they appeared in the Gazette; and no communication respecting them, either verbally or written, was made by any person being a Member of the Railway Department, except to other Members of the Department. Even with regard to the boxes in which the papers were kept, the utmost precautions were taken. The locks had been made for the purpose. The Members of the Department were aware that every effort would be used to get at some notion of the Reports before they appeared; and he must say, that although reports might be abroad, he was not, under the circumstances, surprised at them; but nothing that the hon. Gentleman had said, and nothing that he had heard from any quarter, tended to convince him that anything which could fairly be called information of the intentions of the Board of Trade had, in any case, gone before the public. Now with reference to the question asked by his gallant Friend the Member for Lincoln, whether any Member of the Railway Department of the Board of Trade had shares in any railway. With respect to his noble Friend the President of the Board (Lord Dalhousie), he was for his acts subject to a Parliamentary responsibility, and it had never occurred to him to put the question to his noble Friend. With respect to three out of the four other Members who formed that Board—he alluded to Mr. Porter, to General Pasley, and to Mr. Laing—they were connected with railway matters before he (Mr. Gladstone) came to the Board of Trade, and he had never put to them the question whether they held any shares in any railroad. At the same time he had a very confident opinion that they did not possess any. There was one other Member of the Board for whose appointment he was himself responsible, Mr. O'Brien. Mr. O'Brien had for a long time discharged, in the most satisfactory manner, the duties of private Secretary to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department; that Gentleman had spontaneously made the statement that he was the holder of two or three shares, and, with his concurrence, an arrangement was made by which that gentleman disposed of his shares. He hoped that this explanation would be satisfactory to his hon. Friend. As respected the observations of the hon. Member for Finsbury, although it was easy to deprecate the expense of Committees of that House, and the mode in which the private business was transacted, it was very difficult to apply an effectual remedy. They could not do it by any sweeping measure; but he hoped the hon. Member would see they had already begun the work of piecemeal reduction. The present system with its defects was intimately mixed up with the modes and the habits of thinking of the people of this country; there was a great jealousy as to the protection of local interests, and of the right of every one to have a full representation of his views, and this did create complaints of embarrassment in the discharge of the duties of private Committees. At the same time he must call to the recollection of hon. Gentlemen that last year he had proposed the experiment of referring certain classes of Railway Bills to Select Committees. He believed that experiment had upon the whole met with success, and that the experiment had tended to diminish the expenses, and to abbreviate the speeches of counsel. Still there were many difficulties to encounter, and he believed that his right hon. Friend could more easily, as the hon. Member said, blanch the cheek of a foreign despot, than shorten the speeches of counsel. There was, however, a complaint of another kind against the proceedings of these Select Committees, that they had too much shortened the representations made by different parties, and did not give full and free scope for the explanation of their views as to their measures. There were, in fact, two conflicting interests, and the difficulty could only be approached in a practical form. The question then before the House was, whether leave should be given to bring in one of several Bills abbreviating the Railway Bills; he was sure that his noble Friend would find many persons anxious to assist him in shortening and cheapening these forms and proceedings; but he would assure him he would find not only a difficulty from conflicting pecuniary interests, but also from the conviction of every man that he had a right to a full representation of his views before a public tribunal, subject to canvass this way and that. With respect to the proposal to provide further time for the introduction of the Railway Bills, he could only express his concurrence with the noble Lord opposite (Lord Howick), and his right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel). He hoped that he himself had done pretty full justice to all parties; certain he was that the Gentlemen of the Board of Trade who had had such a difficult struggle amidst the accumulation of Bills brought before them, should receive every fair consideration and indulgence at the hands of the House; and, receiving that consideration and that indulgence, it would be found they had made such effectual inquiries as would diminish the heavy labours of Parliament, and bring within reasonable limits an amount of toil which would otherwise have been perfectly beyond their reach.

Mr. Divett

had seen many persons who had been mixed up with these inquiries, but had seen no one who concurred in the views of the hon. Member for Finsbury. They were all anxious to believe that the secrets of the Board of Trade had been kept beyond the reach of suspicion; at the same time, he was not in the least surprised to hear these reports current, seeing there was a feverish speculation, such as had never before been known; and he believed that prices of shares had been affected, not solely by the particular merits of each undertaking, but largely by the spirit of speculation. He believed, that if there were any institution capable of putting a stop to the evils which had already existed, it was this preliminary inquiry of the Board of Trade.

Mr. Entwistle

submitted to the noble Lord who originated this discussion, whether it were necessary to allow twenty-one days for the liberty of presenting a Petition for a Bill after the reasons of the Board of Trade should be made known. He had made inquiries, and found that the expenses of a Petition for a Bill would not be more than 30l. or 40l. If this were so, he saw no reason for delaying the preliminary step of presenting the Petition, although he concurred in the opinion that parties should not be called upon to proceed and incur any larger expense before they had examined the reasons of the Board of Trade.

Mr. R. Yorke

would only mention one remarkable fact connected with this subject. In the case of the Churnet Valley: Railway, the shares of which it was extremely difficult to keep at par at a certain hour of the day previous to the appearance of the Gazette, yet a few hours before the Gazette was published, they rose 9 or 10 per cent. There was no dispute as to that. Again, the intention of the Government with respect to the harbours of refuge, although the Report of the Commissioners had not been presented to Parliament, had been known for some days, and a paper just distributed, indicating the intention of Government on commercial measures, had appeared in one of the newspapers a fortnight ago. It was perfectly clear, therefore, that there was some source whence these facts were learned before the declarations of Government were made. It was a subject which deserved serious attention, as it affected the integrity of the Government, and its elucidation was necessary for the satisfaction of the public.

Leave given to bring in the first Bill, and all the other Bills in succession.